Prayer Mentoring with Mark Batterson (Part 2)

A few more prayer maxims from Batterson… and some comments from me:

If you don’t establish a PRAYER HABIT you’ll never break the SIN HABIT. You’ve probably heard it said that “sin will keep you from prayer or prayer will keep you from sin.” Confession is not something we do well. We have a hard time admitting that we are wrong. But sin will short circuit our walk with God. A strong prayer life includes a time of allowing God’s Spirit to search our hearts and reveal areas of sin. But if we don’t have a habit of prayer God never gets a chance to do this. I  liken it to using dental floss. I don’t like to do it but I know that I need to do it because there is stuff clinging to my teeth and gums that will wreak havoc in my mouth. I might not notice it but my dentist sure will and there will be a painful price to pay. I need to pray because unless I do there is decay happening that will build up and destroy my relationship with God. There are sin habits in my life that will only be broken when I get before God and allow His Spirit to go to work.

Prayer is the difference between THE BEST YOU CAN DO and THE BEST GOD CAN DO. When I do not pray I am essentially saying to God that I can handle life on my own – that my strength is sufficient to deal with everything that will come my way. And it is – until it isn’t! Then I find out very quickly how much I need God. It is a humbling thing to admit our neediness. But isn’t that exactly where God wants us to be? In an ongoing state of neediness – drawing on the resources of His strength and letting Him use us as we are fueled and energized by Him. Prayer gives me a chance to express to God that I cannot do it on my own; that I indeed do need Him; that apart from Him I can do nothing.

I better wrap this up ’cause I just realized something – I really need to go pray.

Prayer Mentoring with Mark Batterson (#1)

I n his book The Circle Maker, Pastor Mark Batterson,  shares a number of prayer principles that succinctly help me to remember some things about prayer. Over the next 4 weeks I’ll share a few of these and make a few comments.

Prayer is the difference between YOU FIGHTING FOR GOD and GOD FIGHTING FOR YOU.

Yes, we want to fight for God as a part of His army BUT it is much more important that He fight on our behalf. This is where prayer comes in. We do not want to be on the battlefield without Him. He has called us to arms but he has not called us to go into battle alone. He is a fierce fighter – and most battles are lost before they begin because God is not on the battlefield.

Prayer turns appointments into DIVINE APPOINTMENTS.

I’ve been pondering this past week in Ephesians 5 where Paul says to “make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” When I am intentional about praying I am much more tuned in to the Spirit of God and recognize that even random encounters with people are divine opportunities that God has set up for me to take advantage of.

Pray like it DEPENDS ON GOD and work like it DEPENDS ON YOU.

God has established that people are to be His means of spreading the gospel and advancing the kingdom. There is not a back up plan. If we don’t get the job done then the job does not get done. But it is God working in and through us that brings results. As we pray and as we abide in Him, the Spirit of God is unleashed and God can work in ways that He otherwise cannot. John 15:5,7 says “Apart from me you can do nothing” but “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you.”

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (#5)

A few quotes from the 4th chapter of Carson’s book called Praying For Others

God himself declares that unconfessed sin will cut us off from communication with him, from his powerful answers. “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short too save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa 59:1-2) p.75

The sins that cut us off from effective praying may be the displays of evil condemned by Malachi – such things as half-hearted religion that offers God second best (Mal. 1:6-14), meaningless tears of repentance while adultery and divorce abound (Mal. 2:13-16), and abysmal absence of the fear of God, a lack that issues in the corruption and the oppression of the poor and unfortunate (Mal. 3:5), a wretched hankering after the ways of the arrogant and the evil doers of society, nurtured by a whispered suspicion that it is futile to serve God (Mal. 3:13-15). Small wonder that God is not moved by the prayers of people who behave in such ways. pp 76-77

If you are serious about reforming your prayer life, you must begin with your heart. Unconfessed sin, nurtured sin, will always be a barrier between God and those he has made in his image. p.76

My Comments: That second quote is worth pondering. There is a lot that is said that may be glossed over if you do not take the time and intentionally think about what it says.

I’m just sayin’!

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (#4)

In chapter 3 of his book Carson discusses Paul’s prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12…

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here are a few of his comments:

(Paul) prays that Christians might become worthy of all that it means to be a Christian, of all that it means to be a child of the living God, of all that it means to be worthy of the love that brought Jesus to the cross…. We are not strong enough or disciplined enough to take these steps ourselves. That is why Paul prays as he does. If the holy God is to count us “worthy of His calling”, we must ask Him for help. (p. 54)

The twofold goal of Paul’s prayer is this: that Christ might be glorified in us, and we in Him. So I must ask you, as i ask myself: When was the last time you prayed with this twofold goal clearly before your eyes, as your obsession, your ultimate concern? (p. 60)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, at the heart of all our praying must be a biblical vision. That vision embraces who God is, what he has done, who we are, where we are going, what we must value and cherish. That vision drives us toward increasing conformity with Jesus, toward lives lived in the light of eternity, toward hearty echoing of the church’s ongoing cry, “Even so, come Lord Jesus!” That vision must shape our prayers, so that the things that most concern us in prayer are those that concern the heart of God. Then we will persevere in our praying, until we reach the goal God Himself has set for us. (p. 62)

Carson shares a great illustration at the end of this chapter that has many applications – one of which is why we must keep eternity ever in mind as we pray lest we lose sight of why we are praying…

In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away.

At a news conference the next day she said, “All I could see was the fog.…I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

Good stuff to think on… I’m just sayin’!

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (Part 3)

Prior to discussing Paul’s prayer in 2 Thessalonians 1, Carson talks about the framework that Paul had in mind. Here are a few of his thoughts…

By and large our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately. p.41

If in our prayers we are to develop a mental framework analogous to Paul’s, we must look for signs of grace in the lives of Christians, and give God thanks for them…. The specific elements in his thanksgiving show  the framework of values he brings to his intercession – and we urgently need to develop the same framework. p.44

Part of what Paul has in mind, as he prays, is this fundamental orientation to the end of the age, to the vindication of God’s people and to God’s retribution on the (ungodly)… If we do not aim for the new heaven and the new earth, many of our values and decisions in this world will be myopic, unworthy, tarnished, fundamentally wrong-headed. To put the matter bluntly: can biblical spirituality long survive where Christians are not oriented to the world to come? And in this context, can we expect to pray aright unless we are oriented to the world to come? p.50

My Comments: 1) As we observe signs of grace in other people and give God thanks for them it seems like it would be a good idea to let those people know how we see God at work in their lives – as a way of encouraging them.

2) There is an old expression that states, “Don’t be so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good.” Clever and catchy cliché – the only problem is that these words are unbiblical. Our hope for the future ought to fuel not only our praying but also everything about the way that we live. It is because we have a future that makes our present joyfully bearable.

I’m just sayin’!

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (#2)

Here are a few lessons that Carson says he has learned from more mature believers: (pages 19-38)

1) Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray…. Wise planning will ensure that we devote ourselves to prayer often, even if for brief periods: it is better to pray often with brevity than rarely but at length. But the worst option is simply not to pray – and that will be the controlling pattern unless we plan to pray. If we intend to change our habits, we must start he

2) Adopt practical ways to impede mental drift

– Vocalize your prayers. Articulate them. The energy devoted to expressing your thoughts in words and sentences will order and discipline your mind, and help deter meandering.

– Pray over the Scriptures.Tie your praying to your Bible reading.

– Journal your prayers.If you are writing your prayers you are not day dreaming.

3) Develop a system for your prayer lists... It is difficult to pray faithfully for a large spread of people and concerns without developing prayer lists that help you remember them.

4) Pray until you pray…That is Puritan advice. If we do this we eventually come to delight in God’s presence, to rest in His love, to cherish His will. In the Western world we urgently need this advice, for many of us in our praying are like nasty little boys who ring front door bells and run away before anyone answers.

My Comments: All of these are things that I need to pay attention to. But probably especially #4. Which one do you most need to incorporate into your prayer life?

Prayer Mentoring with D.A. Carson (Part 1)

For the next # of weeks I will share some thoughts by D.A. Carson that come from his book A Call To Spiritual Reformation (subtitled: Priorities From Paul and His Prayers).

“The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.

When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs – and these are uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment.” (p. 15)

“One of the foundational steps in knowing God, and one of the basic demonstrations that we do not know God, is prayer – spiritual, persistent, biblically minded prayer. Writing a century and a half ago, Robert Murray M’Cheyne declared, “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” But we have ignored this truism.” (p.16)

“When was the last time we came away from a period of intercession feeling that, like Jacob or Moses, we had prevailed with God? How much of our praying is largely formulaic, liberally larded with cliches that remind us, uncomfortably, of the hypocrites Jesus excoriated?” (p.17)

“J.I.Packer writes “I believe that prayer is the measure of the man, spiritually, in a way that nothing else is, so that how we pray is as important a question as we can ever face”. Can we profitably meet the other challenges that confront the Western church if prayer is ignored as much as it has been?” (p.17)

Hmmmm!

I’m just sayin’!

Prayer Mentoring (Random Quotes #7)

Henry Drummond

“He who runs from God in the morning will scarcely find Him the rest of the day.”  John Bunyan

“Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things ‘above all that we ask or think.'”  Andrew Murray

“Ten minutes spent in the presence of Christ every day, aye, two minutes, will make the whole day different.”  Henry Drummond

“A prayerless Christian is like a bus driver trying alone to push his bus out of a rut because he does not know Clark Kent is on board. ” John Piper

My Comments: I’m finding that it is one thing to shoot up arrow prayers throughout the day and another thing entirely to spend intentional time before the Father, bowing in His presence without the distractions of life to compete with my praying. As Drummond says, even 2 minutes can make a difference. If this is true then just imagine what 10 minutes can do. Perhaps immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Prayer Mentoring (Random Quotes Part 6)

Watchman Nee

“Our prayers lay the track down upon which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.”  Watchman Nee

“The trouble with nearly everybody who prays is that he says ‘Amen’ and runs away before God has a chance to reply. Listening to God is far more important than giving Him our ideas.” Frank Laubach

“Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work. Prayer alone gives work its worth and its success. Prayer opens the way for God Himself to do His work in us and through us. Let our chief work as God’s messengers be intercession; in it we secure the presence and power of God to go with us.” Andrew Murray

“Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.”  W. S. Bowd

“I ought to pray before seeing any one…Christ arose before day and went into a solitary place. David says: ‘Early will I seek thee’…I feel it is far better to begin with God-to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another.” – Robert Murray M’Cheyne

My Comments: Several years ago I read the quote by Watchman Nee and I’ve always like it. It explains a lot. It explains why the church seems so impotent most of the time. It explains why I seem like a 90# spiritual weakling most of the time. It is certainly not that God is unwilling to fuel His people with power; it is that we are unwilling to “lay down the tracks.” This quote puts a picture in my head which helps me to visualize where the power stoppage is. Now to do something about it.

**If you did not see the Facebook post yesterday I am preaching this Sunday on Ephesians 3:14-21 – a powerful prayer passage. Would you take a minute and pray that God would lay the tracks down on my behalf so that the message will be delivered with unction and power and received with conviction and faith-filled determination.

Prayer Mentoring – Random Quotes Part 5

Make time to pray.  “The great freight and passenger trains are never too busy to stop for fuel. No matter how congested the yards may be, no matter how crowded the schedules are, no matter how many things demand the attention of the trainmen, those trains always stop for fuel.”  M.E. Andross

When prayer has become secondary, or incidental, it has lost its power. Those who are conspicuously men of prayer are those who use prayer as they use food, or air, or light, or money.”  M.E. Andross

“If the Christian does not allow prayer to drive sin out of his life, sin will drive prayer out of his life. Like light and darkness, the two cannot dwell together.”  M.E. Andross

“Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.” R. A. Torrey

“Therefore, whether the desire for prayer is on you or not, get to your closet at the set time; shut yourself in with God; wait upon Him; seek His face; realize Him; pray.”  R. F. Horton

My Comments: Love the first quote by M. E. Andross – he was not someone that I was familiar with before I came across these. Is it no wonder that I, that we, that the church seems to so often be running on fumes? We get so busy that we forget to stop and refuel and then find ourselves out of gas. More and more I am realizing not just that I get to pray but that I must pray.

I’m just sayin’!

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